Grant José No Quarter

Today, kids and adults across the country are calling into work or school sick, conveniently allowing them all to watch Opening Day of baseball. I myself spent many an April 1st (or March 31st,) my favourite national holiday, home “sick” watching the Tigers. Of course, in those days, the Tigers played at The Corner and hadn’t entered their winning drought. But today has special significance beyond Opening Day, and not just because the Tigers enter as heavy October contenders, despite bullpen issues. Today is also the eve of José Canseco’s new book, Vindicated: Big Names, Big Liars, and the Battle to Save Baseball, a book no one should read.

Vindicated follows 2005’s Juiced, José Canseco’s exposé on many high-profile steroid users in baseball, himself including. He accused players he directly injected/supplied, suspected due to enlarged physiques, and those he suspected due to “c’mon, they’re probably doing steroids.” The gossip novel, full of innuendo, pointed fingers, and flimsy hearsay was meant not shine a light on the steroid problem in baseball (like Game of Shadows slightly dubiously did in 2006,) but to put the former All-Star—who couldn’t buy a spring training invitation in 2005—back into the spotlight.

For Vindicated, José Canseco’s promises to implicate such “Big Names” as Alex Rodriguez, current Tiger Magglio Ordóñez, and Roger Clemens. Magglio Ordóñez, whom Canseco alleges he injected as a White Sock in 2001, somehow didn’t make the cut for Juiced. Of course, Maggs in 2005 was an injury-plagued outfield that had just signed a lucrative and potentially Juan Gonzalez-esque contract with the cellar dweller Detroit Tigers. Of course, now that he’s a batting champion on a contending team, he suddenly (magically?) finds himself among the accused. Oh, and Canseco allegedly tried to blackmail Ordóñez earlier this winter.

This winter, we saw the Mitchell Report name eighty-nine alleged steroid-using baseballmen, Roger Clemens testifying in front of Congress, and a record-breaking home run baseball branded with an asterisk go to Cooperstown… now this. Reading the Mitchell Report, I treaded very lightly, afraid of whom I might find. Only three of my beloved Tigers turned up, all ex-Tigers. You know, Ordóñez is my Tiger, but he could be guilty. A lot of people could be. A lot of the names on the Mitchell Report weren’t big stars with huge physiques, but normal baseball players with normal slugging averages and human helmet sizes, taking steroids not to break records, but just to stay in the game.

Despite the potential magnitude of the steroid problem in baseball, no one really wants to know how deep it runs. Why else would Mitchell Report alumni like Brian Roberts and Andy Pettitte still have jobs right now? Baseball’s trying to stop current steroid use, not expose past abuse. Senator Mitchell’s eighty-nine aren’t the end of it, and everyone knows that. If MLB punished the guys on Mitchell’s list, it couldn’t stop there; they’d have to keep digging deeper, and they’d have to open a huge Pandora’s box of HGH and buttocks injections. And as stupid as it might sound, these guys shouldn’t be punished.

These people broke the law, lied about it, and were basically the worst role models to kids. If we were talking about football’s steroid problem (“What? No that linebacker’s four-hundred pound body is all natural,”) I’d be shouting louder than everybody for consequences. But you know when I—and a lot of other people—stopped calling in sick on April 1st? 1995, the first season after the players’ strike. It ruined my image (illusion?) of baseball as a pastoral, summertime, fun game. A steroid scandal will do the same thing to a lot of kids, only worse. I only started came back to baseball in 2003. Some people never returned. Sure, baseball’ll eventually recover, but not completely. I’m still kind of pissed off about the Black Sox. We’ll never nab all the bad guys here, so maybe we should just keep telling kids and ourselves that our favourite ballplayers’ are clean. As for books like Vindicated, even if you think that baseball should account for every abscess and every spot of backne on its athletes, we should grant Vindicated and José Canseco no quarter. No show should interview him and no one should buy his exercise in self-aggrandisement at the expense of other people’s reputations. “The Battle To Save Baseball.” Indeed.